June 18, 2014

Ohio Couple Guilty in Extortion Case

WHEELING, WV—A husband and wife from Ohio admitted to extorting nearly a million dollars from a woman who had embezzled the money from a West Virginia college, according to United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II.

Jason Kirkland Weese, age 31, and his wife, Rachaelle Marie Weese, age 26, pleaded guilty today in federal court to extortion, admitting that they used fear and the threat of force to cause Shelly Lough to provide them with large amounts of cash that Lough took from her former employer, Bethany College. Jason Weese also pleaded guilty to money laundering as a result of his purchase of a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro with a portion of the cash he received from Lough.

The Weeses, who both are from East Liverpool, Ohio, admitted to using the money received from Lough to purchase a 2013 Mitsubishi Sport Utility Vehicle, a 2013 Honda All-Terrain Vehicle, as well as large amounts of prescription drugs.

Evidence introduced at the plea hearings established that Lough had exchanged sexually explicit messages and images with Jason Weese. The Weeses then threatened to turn over the images and messages to Lough’s husband if Lough did not comply with the demands for cash. Lough complied until she lost her job at the college, and when she could no longer pay the Weeses, Jason Weese threatened to burn down her Ohio County home.

Lough was prosecuted on state charges and was convicted of embezzlement and falsification of accounts in Brooke County (West Virginia) Circuit Court, admitting to the theft of $1,038,000 from Bethany.

Jason Weese faces up to 40 years in prison as a result of his convictions, and Rachaelle Weese faces up to 20 years. The Weeses are required to make full restitution to Bethany College. Part of the restitution will be satisfied through the liquidation of motor vehicles acquired by the Weeses and seized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld handled the matter on behalf of the government. The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department. U.S. Magistrate Judge James E. Seibert presided.